Friday, April 17, 2009

Mayor control vs. public engagement

Mayor control has been Arne Duncan's battle cry as he goes from city to town, urging mayors to take over their school districts and run them with an iron fist. He's even staked his reputation on this one issue:
"At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed," Duncan said. (Teacher Magazine)
In Chicago, many of us originally thought putting the mayor in charge would lead to greater accountability and mean more money for schools. We were wrong on both counts. School reform has gone downhill under Mayor Daley's Renaissance 2010 initiative and the system is bankrupt.

The up and down sides of mayoral control are laid out by Hunter College prof and member of New York's Commission on School Governance, Joseph Viteritti in the April 8th issue of Edweek, "Should Mayors Run Schools?". He writes:
Business leaders favor a strong managerial model that puts a single executive in charge, who can be held accountable for the efficient coordination of resources and the effective delivery of services. And whenever it has been implemented, mayoral control has provoked anxiety among poor and minority populations, who fear that the centralization of authority will remove decisionmaking from community-based institutions and put it beyond their political reach... More importantly, it can disrupt the safe balance of power among officials, school constituents, and the general public that is needed in a democratic system.
Viteritti adds:

...for a school system to be responsive to the needs of students, it must provide meaningful channels for public and parental input on a regular basis. Big-city school systems need some form of administrative decentralization so that decisions concerning particular schools are made at the community level.


In the same issue, planner/architect Prakash Nair emplores us, "Don't Just Rebuild Schools--Reinvent them." The reinvention includes the very things we've been talking about for the past 20 years including: personalized learning communities, ubiquitous technology, schools connected with the outdoors, integrated arts, treating teachers like professionals, an engaged community, etc...

1 comment:

  1. I have had a lot to say on this subject. Check it out here:


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